Comic Review: Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Splice and Dice

Published: February 6th, 2018
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Chris Mooneyham
Based on: Predator by Jim Thomas and John Thomas, Alien by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Pat Mills

Dark Horse Books, 101 Pages

Review:

Well, this was underwhelming. But most Alien Vs. Predator crossovers that include other franchises don’t ever seem to deliver.

The thought of Judge Dredd fighting Predators and Aliens got me excited. It looks damn good on paper but the execution here was pretty shoddy.

The biggest problem with the story is that there was too much strange shit going on. The main villain was a mad scientist that made animal/human hybrids and called them Ani-Men, which I’m pretty sure is the name of a supervillain team that Marvel has used as far back as the 1960s.

My gripe about this part of the plot is that it takes up most of it. This story arc is made up of just four single issues, there isn’t room to dillydally. We didn’t need this and while it was used to introduce the alien xenomorphs to the story, the plot didn’t need to get fixated on this other, unimportant stuff.

All you need to do to kick off this story is have a Predator ship crash in Mega-City One. The crash releases alien xenomorphs and Predators that were fighting on board. Judge Dredd shows up to investigate the crash site and BOOM! you now have Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens. It writes itself.

The comic dumps all this side story crap in your lap early on and it takes too long to get to the good stuff in a comic without a lot of room the breathe. Once the cool stuff starts, it feels incredibly rushed. There’s no real build of suspense or terror. Plus, Dredd and the Predators team up rather quickly and don’t have much of their own conflict.

This wasn’t a total dud but it just doesn’t live up to what one should expect from from these three badass franchises coming together.

I think that crossovers like this are typically rushed and looked at as a good way to make a quick buck but if the editors actually put a bit more care into these events, we could have better stories, slicker art and something that balances out multiple franchises in a way that makes more sense and respects their spirit.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: any Alien Vs. Predator comic series or Judge Dredd crossover.

Video Game Review: Alien vs. Predator (PlayStation 3)

I was really excited when this came out because I love both Alien and Predator franchises and especially love when they come together. Well, maybe not in the movies but I always liked the Alien vs. Predator comics, as well as the video games before this one. That old Atari Jaguar game was great for the time.

This boasts good graphics, solid maps and the ability to play as a Predator, an alien or a human space marine. There are three different story routes and a lot of cool game play options.

One thing puts a real damper on this game for me though and that’s the overly complicated controls. I typically play as a Predator because why wouldn’t I? Predators are the friggin’ best and I can turn invisible and violently rip enemies to shreds with my knife gauntlet or blast them into smithereens with my shoulder cannon.

But that’s the problem. Predators can do too many awesome things that keeping track of it all, in the heat of battle, is sometimes difficult. Playing as an Alien xenomorph or a human isn’t that much easier either. Running around as a xenomorph can be very disorienting.

I think that this game was a good step in the right direction for what this needed to be but maybe it needed more refinement. And the learning curve to get the controls down is tough. One certainly can’t be ready to be thrown to the wolves after the weak and brief tutorial mission.

This is a lot of fun once you do get the hang of it though but it seems to lack in replayability.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Alien vs. Predator games and similar sci-fi/horror first person shooters.

Film Review: Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

Also known as: AvP2, Alien vs. Predator: Survival of the Fittest (working titles), Colorado Nights (fake working title), AvPR (short title)
Release Date: December 25th, 2007
Directed by: The Brothers Strause
Written by: Shane Salerno
Based on: characters by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett and Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade, Sam Trammell, Robert Joy

Davis Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 94 Minutes, 102 Minutes (Unrated Version)

Review:

“This plan is stupid. Let’s just leave town now.” – Dale

The quote I used above is the same thing I said to my friends when they planned to see this movie. No, really… it is.

I wasn’t too enthused about going to this picture because I wasn’t much of a fan of its predecessor. Being that this was a sequel to that, I figured it’d be even worse. It was.

Granted, I did like the setting and what this film could have been.

It didn’t take place inside of some subterranean bullshit temple under Antarctica. This was set in small town Colorado and featured forests and an environment similar to the original Predator while also having a feeling similar to First Blood, the greatest of all Rambo movies.

Additionally, this film gave us the Predalien, a hybrid of both ultraviolent alien species, which on paper, should have been an incredibly formidable beast that upped the ante, threw this thing into high gear and pretty much should have been able to rule the world with its minions and babies.

What we got though was a dull movie where the filmmakers didn’t seem to care too much about the Alien and Predator franchises and really just wanted to make a gore filled slasher flick with aliens. And not even a good slasher flick, which are really hard to screw up because slasher fans have such a low bar and really just want to see a cool monster and a lot of creative yet violent killing. These directors were handed two of the absolute coolest monsters in motion picture history and they still couldn’t make it work.

The biggest blight on this film is the cast. Pretty much everyone is horrible in this. Not a single character is remotely likable and you certainly don’t care when their life is in danger.

The incapable cast and aimless direction made this a spectacle of violence where there was no tension and no real drama. No one mattered, therefore it didn’t matter that the whole town was essentially just a meat processing plant for the monsters to tear through. When the whole town gets nuked at the end, you don’t give a single, solitary shit about it. You also don’t care whether or not the helicopter carrying the heroes is going to outrun the blast.

Why was this so bad? How was it so carelessly crafted?

At least it was rated R and had some solid gory bits but that certainly doesn’t give this thing the license to suck complete ass.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: The other films from the Alien and Predator franchises but this is the worst so any other film in the pairing would be a step up.

Film Review: AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (2004)

Also known as: AVP (promotional abbreviation), Alien Vs. Predator (short title)
Release Date: August 12th, 2004 (Puerto Rico & Thailand)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Based on: characters by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett and Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Music by: Harald Kloser
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Tommy Flanagan

Davis Entertainment, Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 101 Minutes, 103 Minutes (extended cut), 109 Minutes (Unrated Version)

Review:

“I think this is a manhood ritual. The humaniod ones, they’ve been sent here to prove that they’re worthy to become adults.” – Sebastian de Rosa

I haven’t seen AVP: Alien Vs. Predator since it was in theaters. From what I remember of it, it was a massive disappointment and didn’t live up to the best either franchise had to offer.

Well, it was at least better than Alien: Resurrection but it didn’t come close to being as awesome as Alien 1 & 2 or the original Predator. Hell, Alien 3 and Predator 2 both kick this in the balls too.

But now having some distance, fourteen years to be exact, this wasn’t as bad as my memory of it and I at least found the experience of revisiting it, a bit amusing.

At the end of the day, this gives you exactly what the title implies. It gives you alien xenomorphs fighting against the Predators. Strip away everything else and a grudge match between these two alien species is still a main event worth having. I just wish that the story around it was better and fit the already established mythologies better.

Yes, there is a team of humans in this and frankly, you should already know that they are just meat to be ripped through, trapped in a war between two vicious species that don’t give a crap about collateral damage.

I didn’t care about any of the people in this film but it was neat seeing Lance Henriksen return to the franchise to play Weyland of the Weyland Corporation from the Alien films. Obviously, his appearance as that character was to show you that the android Bishop was modeled after his visage. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Henriksen, so seeing him bring his level of gravitas to another action sci-fi film was cool. His demise in this was even cooler.

The problem with the film is that the action was lackluster, so it didn’t really make up for the bland story or bland characters. It was nice seeing Ewen Bremner and Tommy Flanagan pop up in this but they were just there to be eaten, really.

AVP is just a film that had so much potential. The comics were typically pretty good and so were the games that they did before (and after) this. This could have taken the best bits of those stories and turned them into a worthwhile movie. But we got this instead.

But hey, at least it’s better than its sequel.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The other films from the Alien and Predator franchises.

Film Review: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Also known as: Alien 4 (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1997 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Kim Flowers, Raymond Cruz, Dominique Pinon

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 109 Minutes, 116 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[voiceover] My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.” – Ripley

Alien: Resurrection is a film that shouldn’t have been made. At least not in its existing form. Ripley died but they bring Weaver back as some sort of clone made from her DNA that conveniently has her memories and is basically Ripley. It’s a terrible f’n attempt at keeping the franchise’s star at the forefront instead of just moving in a new direction, which was needed but didn’t happen until 2012’s Prometheus.

For the most part, this is a terrible film that at least has some good actors and a few cool bits in it. The stuff featuring Brad Dourif and his xenomorph captives is pretty well done. I also liked the look of the standard xenomorphs in this chapter.

People everywhere love Joss Whedon like he’s some sort of golden boy. Well, he wrote this script and the story and this is one of the prime examples I give when battling it out with Whedon fanboys. Did he have a few good ideas, sure. However, even the good ideas were pretty unrefined and made this feel more like a fan fiction fantasy than anything that fits cohesively within the already established Alien mythos.

The Ripley stuff was just dumb, the human/xenomorph hybrid was strange and bizarre and not in a good way and the whole tale just seemed like a pointless side story in some pocket of the Alien universe where I just didn’t care about a single character or their mission, even if Earth itself was in imminent danger.

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t care about anyone. I like Weaver, Ryder, Perlman, Dourif and Wincott a lot. They have all done things that have spoke to me and had me invested in their characters. I don’t in any way blame them, I blame Whedon’s weak script and the director, who was the first in the franchise that I am not even remotely familiar with. Okay, upon checking he did Amélie but that was after this and I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t judge it. I kind of liked it back in 2001 or so, though.

Alien: Resurrection is an example of a major studio turning a property into their whore that has to keep turning tricks to keep making the pimp money.

The underwater sequence was kind of cool, so I do give this film some props for that. Usually underwater stuff comes off as terrible. But then, maybe this film should’ve focused on its strength and taken place entirely underwater. I’m being facetious, that would’ve been shitty.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other films in the Alien franchise but this one is one of the weakest.

Film Review: Alien³ (1992)

Release Date: May 19th, 1992 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Vincent Ward, David Giller, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 114 Minutes (Theatrical), 145 Minutes (Assembly Cut), 138 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[to the Alien] You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.” – Ripley

Alien was such an incredible movie that it was damn near impossible to follow up while hitting that same level of grandeur and artistry. Aliens happened to achieve this, however. Many people even debate which of the two films is better. So when a third Alien film came along, it couldn’t capture lightning in a bottle for a third time could it?

It didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t good. It is still one hell of a ride and it certainly isn’t short on terror and dread.

Also, this was the directorial debut of David Fincher, a young man who got his start as an assistant cameraman and a matte photography assistant on films like Return of the JediIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The NeverEnding Story.

On paper, this probably looked like it was setup to fail. However, the young Fincher made it work and helped establish his own style enough to whittle out a pretty prolific Hollywood career for himself. He followed this movie up with Se7enThe GameFight Club and since the turn of the millennium he’s done Panic RoomZodiacThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social NetworkThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. Without Alien³, those other films either wouldn’t have existed or they would have been adapted by people with a very different visual style.

And that’s the thing, Fincher has a unique style. Some love it, some don’t. Regardless of how you feel about it, the Fincher visual style is on full display in Alien³. In a way, it’s kind of impressive because Fincher had his own stylistic stamp out the gate. One could argue that he is an auteur. I wouldn’t quite call him that but you could argue for it and maybe in another decade he will be able to achieve that status.

In this chapter in the franchise, we see Ripley’s escape ship crash land on a prison planet. It picks up from the ending of Aliens, as Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop are still floating in space, asleep. When Ripley comes to, she realizes that everyone else died and soon after that, she comes to discover that an alien xenomorph stowed away on the ship. The rest of the film is about Ripley and the male prisoners trying to kill the alien that wants everyone for lunch. There is one catch, however… Ripley’s body is playing host to an alien queen. It’s almost Shakespearean in how the aliens get the last laugh in regards to Ripley’s fate.

One really cool thing about this film that actually blew my 13 year-old mind was that I saw the xenomorph emerge from a dog as it’s incubator/host. The alien took on characteristics of that animal, making it different and unique. My mind started exploding with ideas as to what would happen if the alien egg was incubating in other creatures. I guess toy makers got a similar idea because in the ’90s, there were a slew of Alien toys featuring all sorts of weird hybrid xenomorphs. My cousin had a really cool xenomorph rhino action figure.

The special effects in this film looked really good for 1992. However, now that this thing has been remastered in modern HD, it’s a mixed bag. Some of the shots that once worked don’t look so hot now but they’re not terrible, they’re just really noticeable. But one of the things I really loved about this picture was the first-person POV used for the xenomorph when hunting prisoners. These sequences are still really cool and it almost feels like a nod to first-person shooter games, which were just becoming the rage in this era. It’s also very similar to playing as an alien in the Alien Vs. Predator games.

Alien³ is not the grand spectacle that Alien and Aliens were. It is still a solid followup and helps enrich the mythos instead of bastardizing it like the fourth Alien film did.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The first two Alien movies.

Film Review: Alien (1979)

Release Date: May 25th, 1979
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 117 Minutes, 116 Minutes (2004 Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Ripley, for God’s sake, this is the first time that we’ve encountered a species like this. It has to go back. All sorts of tests have to be made.” – Ash, “Ash, are you kidding? This thing bled acid. Who knows what it’s gonna do when it’s dead.” – Ripley, “I think it’s safe to assume it isn’t a zombie.” – Ash

I saw Alien on the big screen once before. I think it was in 1999 when it was re-released for its twentieth anniversary. Granted, I can’t miss the opportunity to see this or its first sequel when they come back to theaters. Both are perfection and both are very different. While people have debated for decades, which film is better, I still can’t decide. Why can’t they both be the best? I mean, they are perfect compliments to one another because of the different things that each brings to the table, setting them apart narrative wise and tonally.

Where Aliens is a badass action thriller, the original Alien is really a pure horror movie set in space. The Alien formula was actually so effective, that people are still ripping this film off today. Almost every year, there is at least one film dealing with an isolated crew battling a dangerous creature in tight confines, whether it be a spaceship, an underwater facility or some science research base in the middle of nowhere. Alien is still the best of these kind of films, although John Carpenter’s The Thing is a very, very close second.

What makes this film work is how dark and how cold it is. Everything just comes off as bleak and hopeless. The film has incredible cinematography and its really unlike anything that was made before it. A lot of the visual allure, as well as the film’s looming sense of doom, is due to the design work of Swiss artist H.R. Giger. His style is like German Expressionism from the future in that it is dark, disorienting but also very tech-like and beautiful. Giger’s art is very unique and very much his own. Without Giger, I feel like Alien would have been a very different film.

With as iconic as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley has become and as synonymous with the franchise as she is, it is weird seeing her not being the top billed star. That honor goes to Tom Skerritt but Ripley does become the focal point and Weaver gives a great performance, even if she isn’t as incredibly badass as she would become in the next film.

This film benefits from having a pretty amazing cast, though. In addition to Skerritt and Weaver, you’ve got Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Veronica Cartwright. All seven of these people have had pretty impressive careers with multiple notable roles.

The film is also directed by Ridley Scott, who has gone on to resurrect the franchise with new energy since he returned to the series with Prometheus in 2012 and then followed it up with the lackluster but still interesting Alien: Covenant in 2017.

Alien is still a very effective film and even if I have seen it dozens of times, there are certain parts in the movie where I still get chills. The effects hold up really well and still look damn good. And even if the sets and computers look really outdated for a movie set in the future, it still has a certain aesthetic that just works for me.

All things considered, there really isn’t a negative thing I can say about the film. It moves at a nice pace, builds suspense effectively, still feels chilling and has aged magnificently.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Other Alien films and Blade Runner.